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26 February 2020 | Story Leonie Bolleurs
Vegetable tunnels
Two vegetable tunnels were recently established on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus to contribute to the fight against food insecurity.

Food insecurity is a problem on university campuses worldwide. The three campuses of the University of the Free State (UFS) are not exempt from this plight. Research findings indicate that more than 64% of students at the university go through periods of hunger.

Annelize Visagie, , from the Division of Student Affairs who is heading the Food Environment Office at the UFS, confirms that food insecurity at higher education institutions is not a new phenomenon.

In a study with first-year students as focus, Visagie found that academic performance declines and coping mechanisms increase as the severity of food insecurity increases.

“Students use different coping mechanisms, with an alarming percentage of students (40,6%) using fasting as an excuse to friends for not having food, 60% of students skipping meals because they do not have enough money, and 43,2% of students being too embarrassed to ask for help.”

Visagie states that various factors contribute to this alarming scenario, with the main reason being that the majority of students come from impoverished economic and social circumstances. This suggests that although students receive NSFAS funding or any other bursary, it is not a guarantee that they are food secure.

Focus on student wellbeing
Aligning with the UFS strategic goal of improving student success and wellbeing, UFS staff is working hard to implement initiatives and obtain sponsorships and food donations to ensure that students do not go hungry.

Members of the university’s Food Environment Project, Drs Johan van Niekerk and JW Swanepoel from the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Rural Development and Extension (CENSARDE), and Karen Scheepers from the Division of Student Affairs who is heading KovsieAct partnered to move the existing vegetable tunnels on the UFS experimental farm to the Bloemfontein Campus.

The construction of the tunnels and boxes was financed by Tiger Brands. Professor Michael Rudolph and Dr Evans Muchesa who are involved with the Siyakhana Food Gardens, assisted with the training of students and consultation throughout the project.

The two tunnels (30 m x 10 m each) are covered with netting, and two water tanks with pumps are fitted to provide the necessary irrigation.

Vegetables add value
Dr Swanepoel explains: “In each tunnel there are 20 raised wooden boxes. Each residence received one box where they planted one type of vegetable crop, including Swiss chard, cabbage, carrots, beet, kale, and broccoli.”

Residence Committee members from all on- and off-campus student communities in civic and social-responsibility portfolios, as well as civic and social-responsibility student associations, received the necessary training to plant vegetables.

The vegetables were planted in mid-February and the first harvest is expected around mid-April.

This initiative, which will help students in the near future to keep the hunger pangs at bay in a healthy way, adds to the existing No Student Hungry programme. Visagie says it is important for the university to assist students in making healthy choices and to educate them on decisions to secure nutritional food for themselves.

In addition, the university also received food parcels from Rise Against Hunger, together with donations from organisations such as Gift of the Givers – providing 200 food parcels to students on the Qwaqwa Campus, and the recent donation from Tiger Brands – providing 500 food parcels to students.

News Archive

UFS at the forefront of college lecturer training
2010-12-08

Prof. Jonathan Jansen (Vice-Chancellor and Rector, UFS), Butah Makgalemele (FET lecturer), Prof. Dennis Francis (Dean, Faculty of Education), Prof. Daniella Manning-Coetzee (Director: CED), Felicity Skully (EDTP-SETA, sponsors), Thantshi Masitara (SACCI) and Erica Odendaal (VEOP project coordinator) during the launch of the VEOP at the UFS South Campus.
Photo: Christiaan van der Merwe

The Centre for Educational Development (CED, which will be known as the School for Continuous Education from 2011) of the Faculty of Education at the University of the Free State (UFS) recently launched its special new programme for the furthering of the education of college teachers. The Vocational Education Orientation Programme (VEOP) is geared towards improving the teaching qualifications of Further Education and Training (FET) College lectures.

The programme focuses primarily on college lecturers without professional teaching qualifications, in a sector of the education system that has been long neglected according to Prof. Daniella Manning-Coetzee, Head of the CED.

This is all said to change with the implementation of the VEOP. The CED has already established training centres in Bloemfontein, Qwaqwa, Kroonstad, Thaba N’chu and Sasolburg, serving a total number of 240 lecturers. Topics specifically related to the FET College sector which these lecturers will be schooled in, include teaching methodology, assessment, workplace learning, FET College policy and planning, and action research.

The VEOP was developed by a national task team and reference group representing both universities and FET Colleges, and will be a 30-credit programme counting towards the 120-credit Vocational Education Certificate which is currently under development. 

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